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New Airport Bridge Spanning U.S.-Mexico Border Opens

The walking bridge at the Cross Border Xpress air terminal in San Diego links the U.S. and Mexico. The terminal began operations on Wednesday, Dec. 9. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

A pedestrian bridge spanning the U.S.-Mexico border now connects San Diego and Tijuana.

The airport terminal, called Cross Border Xpress, opened Wednesday and will improve travel for fliers going from Tijuana to the United States. Such travelers make up about 60 percent of all the airport's passengers, the Associated Press reports. Before the new cross-border airport, the fliers had to drive 15 minutes to a busy land crossing, and then wait in line to enter San Diego on foot or by car.

"What a difference," Elba Hernandez, 69, told the news service. She flew to Tijuana after visiting family in Mexico, and then crossed the airport bridge to San Diego, where her sister picked her up.

It is the first project to join a foreign airport terminal with the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times.

The new facility is privately owned, financed by a number of investors including Chicago billionaire Sam Zell and Carlos Laviada, who became familiar with the hassle of cross-border travel because his mother-in-law lived in San Diego.

"CBX will transform the border crossing experience for millions of travelers," Laviada told CBS affiliate KFMB. "We started the planning and approvals for CBX over eight years ago, and it has garnered incredible support on both sides of the border. Intercountry travel for leisure and business is a critical economic driver for this entire region."

The AP says that "the only other cross-border airport known to industry experts is in the European Union — between Basel, Switzerland, and France's Upper Rhine region — but it carries none of the political freight of San Diego and Tijuana."

The new crossing is the latest development in the process of improving and regulating travel between the U.S. and Mexico at the busy border crossing. As we reported earlier this year, new regulations went into effect at the San Ysidro foot crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. Those rules, which affect travelers going from the U.S. to Mexico, call for people crossing on foot to present a passport, fill out paperwork and, if they are staying for longer than one week, pay a 330-peso fee (about $20).

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